Written by Angelica Pino, SVRI Grants Manager and Capacity Strengthening Specialist
“The real and legitimate goal of the sciences is the endowment of human life with inventions and riches” (Francis Bacon)
Something old, something new - Filling a gap in the field
Despite advances and new political global initiatives, violence against women remains a grave public health challenge and human rights violation. And the Covid – 19 global health crisis made it even worse.
The Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) is committed to increasing and strengthening action-oriented research and its use to improve responses, build innovative and expand prevention programmes for addressing violence against women and violence against children. Our focus is evidence building in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) - with preference for research-practitioner partnerships led by local collaborations. We believe that research partnership that are locally led offer evidence the best possible chance to influence practice and policy. Our interest in promoting and supporting impactful science in LMICs stems from the ethical imperative to use scarce research resources effectively in regions where women are disproportionally affected by violence.
We need to build evidence that can answer complex problems. The SVRI Global Shared Research Agenda on VAW provides examples of some of the complex questions the field has identified as important, e.g.: What types of interventions can effectively prevent multiple forms of violence, and why? What are the most effective tools to measure harmful traditional practices against women and girls (including Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting), early and forced marriage, crimes committed in the name of honour, dowry-related violence, and son preference? Research that answers these questions can make a real difference in women’s and children’s lives. But getting evidence to inform practice and policy is easier said than done. For many of us in the field of building evidence on VAW and VAC - including the grantees from the SVRI Grant Making Programme - this work is political and we care deeply about seeing our research and programmes actively contributing to ending violence and improving people’s lives, but not all of us have the skills and resources to do so. This need, coupled with the lessons learned in our successful experience of strengthening capacity online during Covid - 19, motivated us to develop the Pathways to Research Impact course.
Co-creating with the course intended audience
The SVRI partnered with the Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI) and the Africa Centre for Evidence to develop a free, easy to access, self-paced online course to strengthen the capacity of researchers to produce high-impact evidence that can be translated into practice. The content and structure of the course are tailored specifically for researchers committed to research for impact. The course is suitable for researchers at any stage of their career, including students who are completing a higher degree by research, such as a Masters or PhD. It is also suitable for researchers working in a wide range of contexts, such as in universities, research institutes, or NGOs. Multiple stakeholders helped co-create the course. For example, an advisory group of global experts on VAW and VAC from different global regions worked with us to develop the theory of change for the course. The course was piloted with 62 participants from all over the world including with current and former SVRI grantees from Australia, India, Jordan, Peru, Kyrgyzstan, and South Africa. The SVRI Grantees Reference Group contributed their insights and expertise on the course content to make sure it was relevant and useful to the intended audience.
“The encouragement for researchers - those in their earlier careers, even those that have progressed – is to take this course and to learn. Some of us were not so fortunate to learn anything about research translation in our academic programmes and we pretty much learned about it by trial and error and in some ways going through blunders… You have done research and then you realise you have to disseminate this, and all the resources are already depleted. It is really a beautiful course; it is self-paced, but it also has opportunities to interact and to learn from others who come to the course. The course does not just give you the strategies but there are resources and tools you can actually use in your own research to maximise its impact”. (Mercilene Machisa, Specialist Scientist, South African Medical Research Council, Gender and Health Research Unit, Pathways to Research Impact Grantees Reference Group).
What’s in a name? Pathways to Research Impact
SVRI Pathways to Research Impact course slide
By taking a systems approach, participants learn that research impact is not as a linear process, but rather is an iterative, interactive process necessitating the engagement with different actors at different times, over time to build trust:
“Systems trump programmes every single time…If we don’ think of all the levels of the system, people that can benefit, the organisations who may be delivering, and/or the communities, and the wider political system funding decisions; if we don’t think about what we need to do to influence each of those areas, it has been shown that we will not get the uptake and implementation of the research that has been conducted in the that way we were hoping”. (Course co-developer Robyn Mildon, Executive Director, Centre for Evidence and Implementation, 2022).
The course emphasises the need to know and respect at a personal level the different actors involved in the research impact process. In the words of Professor Ruth Stewart, Director of the Africa Centre for Evidence at the University of Johannesburg:
“…If you imagine a big jigsaw puzzle which is the landscape of initiatives to protect women and children, and prevent violence against them, and that landscape includes individual researchers, research organisations, research funders all of these different players and every single piece of the jigsaw has to be there for the picture to be together. I am big advocate of starting with relationships, and it comes out in the programme that we have put together for this course: respectful and listening relationships”.
The course curriculum and methods
The course aims to equip researchers with tools to maximise the impact of the research they do. The course modules include: how to lead and influence change as a researcher; the evidence eco-system and research impact; working with the right stakeholders and collaborators in your context; monitoring and evaluating your impact; and practical strategies and skills to support you to take the next steps along the pathway to research impact.
Carefully selected readings and videos - including interviews with SVRI grantees - make the recommended 20 hours learning experience engaging and interactive. Importantly, the course provides a Research Uptake, Use and Impact Planning Tool, to assist participants in establishing clear goals and plans for how to translate their goals into action.
SVRI Pathways to Research Impact course slide
Time to start learning
The SVRI Pathways to Research Impact online course is freely available at: https://svri.thinkific.com/courses/research-for-impact.
An unmoderated dedicated community of practice is available on Facebook called “SVRI Pathways to Research Impact Course” Group, where current and previous course participants can discuss, share resources, and seek feedback on their Research Impact Plans from colleagues.
Other SVRI courses available online include the Dare to Care: Wellness, self and collective care for those working in the VAW and VAC fields and the Measuring Violence Against Children: From Concept to Action.